Q: I recently bought a six-month-old, all-white Maltese. I knew to expect tear stains, but I did not think it would be as dark and stubborn as they are now. I’ve tried commercial tear stain removers, but none work. What can I do?

A: Tear stains are quite common, especially in small breeds like the Maltese. Tiny tear ducts are usually to blame for the stains that accumulate underneath their eyes. This condition is called epiphora, and it occurs whenever there is an overflow of tears onto the face, thus staining it. It can be caused by excessive tear production and/or insufficient tear drainage. The best way to go is to clean them, and work on preventing new ones from forming. However, I do not recommend trying “myth remedies” that are commonly suggested on the Internet, like apple cider vinegar, human makeup removers, or corn syrup—these can be harmful to your furkid! Additionally, never use human eye drops on pets, except for basic eye saline solution with no additives.

Here are some tips and steps to add to your grooming regime:

• Ensure that the fur around the eye area is always short. If necessary, make regular appointments with your groomer to have it trimmed.
• Keep your dog’s eye area as dry as possible, cleaning the stains regularly.
• Gently wipe your furkid’s face twice a day, with a soft, warm, and damp cloth.
• Use a cotton ball to wipe the tear stains with colloidal silver, which is safe around the eyes. Colloidal silver has antimicrobial properties that will help reduce opportunistic yeast infections and moist dermatitis that can occur in the corners of your pet’s eyes.
• You may try using the CO2 Pet Grooming tablet (a blast bicarbonate ion water treatment from Japan) for baths. It has excellent cleaning power, as it deeply cleanses your dog’s follicles, with the carbon dioxide penetrating beneath the skin’s surface, helping to clean stubborn stains with more ease.

If you’ve tried all of the above to no avail, your furkid might have ingrown eyelashes or unusually large tear glands. I suggest a trip to your regular vet to rule out the following causes: A bad diet, stressful environments, an eye and/or ear infection, and tear drainage problems. While tear staining is typically no more than a minor annoyance, if persistent, it could also be a symptom of bad eye health.